Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 5 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Balls. Frozen balls. The San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 on Sunday to advance to the Divisional Round, and I failed by picking the OVER on the total of 47.5 (46.5 at the close). Okay, I didn’t fail, it was a perfectly sound pick that just didn’t happen to come true. But it would have been nice to know in advance that the wind would be a factor. We expected the cold.
Anyway, you’re probably more interested in who beat the NFL odds, and the answer is: It depends. The Niners were available at prices like –2.5 (–167), –3 (–125) and –3.5 (–105) at the close, depending on which online sportsbook you shopped at. The official closing line was San Fran –3.5, so this one’s going into the ledger as an ATS loss for the Niners. They’ll carry a record of 13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS into their Divisional Round matchup with the Carolina Panthers (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS).
First in Flight
It took about three nanoseconds after the game was over for the NFL lines to open in Vegas, and they’ve made Sunday’s game (1:05 p.m. ET, FOX) a pick ‘em with a total of 43.5 points. This is a bit of a slap in the face for a Panthers team that finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in overall efficiency (No. 10 offense, No. 3 defense, No. 13 special teams), three spots ahead of the 49ers (No. 8 offense, No. 13 defense, No. 7 special teams). Not only that, Carolina already beat San Fran 10-9 back in Week 10 as a 6-point road dog.
But at least that football spread is consistent. If home-field advantage is worth three points (some say 2.5), then making this game a pick ‘em with the change of venue makes some sense – just like in the NBA playoffs, where the spreads don’t vary wildly based on the results of the previous game, only the location. It’s not a purely linear line move, though; this is football, where moving from +6 to a pick ‘em means a lot more than moving, say, from +14 to +8.
Am I Blue?
It’s all good, because of course I’m going to pick Carolina in this situation. We’ve already seen this game once, and in the sequel, the Panthers have the advantage of taking the bye week off to rest and recuperate from a long regular season (San Francisco even had the bye in Week 9 before losing to Carolina). The Niners, meanwhile, just spent several hours running around outside in Green Bay in January – and I’m not talking about a leisurely jog, either.
As for this Sunday’s forecast, we’re looking at a much warmer day in the high-50s, but with a 40-percent chance of rain. There’s that rain again. If you’ve been following along, you know that rain favors the UNDER, which favors the underdogs in turn. That would be Carolina in this case. We’re already looking at two smashmouth defenses with mobile quarterbacks and powerful running games; the Panthers, by the way, are No. 4 this year in rushing efficiency, with San Fran checking in at No. 14.
It’ll be very helpful to see what comes up in the injury reports from this weekend, as well as updated weather forecasts. But taking the Panthers here is by far the easiest pick of the four Divisional Round games. If only winning were as easy as picking.NFL Pick: Take the Panthers +1.5 at BetCRIS